As coffee enthusiasts at Vienna Coffee, we are constantly testing ways to make the best coffee at home or in the office. There are several techniques that immediately improve the quality of your cup of coffee, regardless of the type of machine you use.
We'd love to share these tips with you so that your next cup of coffee will taste a lot better!
1. Buy fresh coffee beans
When you buy a bag of ground coffee in the supermarket, pay attention! From now on, buy freshly ground coffee beans.
There's a reason why most coffee companies don't list the date the coffee was roasted; the beans you find on the supermarket shelf have probably been there for months. Coffee reaches its maximum flavor just a few days after it is roasted and should be consumed within a month of the roast date. Go to local coffee roasters to find fresh coffee. Some are roasted on site or sourced from local roasters who roast in smaller batches, which usually means fresher coffee.
2. Store your coffee properly
To keep the coffee you buy fresh for longer, make sure you store it properly. Although a vacuum-sealed storage container with a one-way valve is recommended by many, a standard mason jar will suffice for most people.
If you have multiple sizes of mason jars, it's not a bad idea to move the coffee to the most suitable jar as the jar becomes emptier. A 950 ml wide mouth jar is perfect for storing 340 grams of coffee. As you work your way through the bag, you can reduce the jar to a 16 oz. size jar.
3. Grind your beans at the right time
Grind your coffee just before you start brewing it.
Experts say that coffee starts to lose its flavor within 30 minutes of grinding. Therefore, it is best to grind on the spot, just before brewing coffee.
Grind size and consistency also matter. If you grind too coarsely, you will have a weak pot of coffee. Grind too finely then you will over extract the coffee and it will taste bitter. Most filter coffee makers require a medium to medium fine grind.
Unless you want to spend over $100 on a good quality automatic coffee grinder, a manual hand grinder is the most affordable way to achieve a nice, consistent grind, although they do require a small amount of manual labor. Electric coffee grinders with knife blades also work, but produce inconsistent particle size, which can lead to over extraction.
4. The right way to measure your coffee
Weigh your coffee by weight instead of volume.
Making better coffee is all about eliminating variables, and one way to do that is to use the same amount of coffee per unit of water every time you brew coffee. Using a digital scale to measure takes just a second and allows you to better compare how much coffee and water is used each time.
Ideally, a ratio of 1:20 (that's one part coffee to 20 parts water, or about 7.5 g of coffee to 150 ml of water) makes a fairly strong cup of coffee. That said, some people go as high as 1:14 or as low as 1:30. It's up to you to decide what tastes best, which is much easier to do (and replicate) once you remove all the guesswork. A useful tip for this is to use a notebook or notes in your phone to remember the best ratio.
5. Pre-infuse your coffee grinds
Most automatic coffee makers do not properly prepare the coffee grounds for full extraction. Manual pour-over coffee makers (which are similar to automatic drip machines) require a pre-infusion or so-called "bloom". This prepares the coffee by pouring hot water over the coffee grinds to release any residual carbon dioxide gas left after the roasting process. If you skip this step, the carbon dioxide can repel water during part of the brewing process, essentially making the brew weaker.
To prepare your coffee, place a filter in the funnel and add the coffee grinds. Then use a kettle to preheat about 50 milliliters or a quarter cup of water to 93 degrees Celcius. Slowly pour the heated water over the grinds, making sure they are all thoroughly wet. Let this sit for about 45 seconds before starting the brewing process.
6. Brew at the right temperature
Many automatic coffee machines do not reach the optimal temperature.
Another step that many automatic coffee makers skip is reaching the optimal temperature. The desired brewing temperature for drip coffee is between 90 and 96 degrees Celsius. Newer, high-end models sometimes have manual temperature adjustment, but older, cheaper makers do not.
To make sure your coffee maker gets hot enough, run it without coffee in the funnel and use a thermometer to measure the temperature. If possible, try to measure the temperature during the brewing process, as the temperature of the water will drop as it passes through the funnel and into the carafe below. If it never reaches at least 90 degrees Celsius, see if pre-boiling your water in a kettle helps.
However, keep in mind that you don't want to exceed 96 degrees as this will "burn" the coffee. If this doesn't work, consider upgrading the coffee maker.
7. Use the right water
The quality of the water you use is another aspect that is often overlooked when making coffee. Using hard water that is full of minerals does not adhere well to the dissolved particles of the coffee, leading to an under-extracted, weak coffee. Not only that, this higher mineral content also leads to deposits in your coffee maker, such as limescale. This means you will have to descale your coffee maker more often.
On the other hand, heavily filtered or distilled water can be just as destructive to your equipment. While it doesn't cause as much buildup, it appears that the lack of ions and mineral content will force the water to "leach minerals from the metal components and reduce machine performance over time." Plus, with more room for bonds, distilled water can easily lead to overextraction.
You want water that is about the middle of the spectrum, with a mineral balance of about 150 parts per million. You can make the ideal water for your coffee by using distilled water and adding Third Wave Water capsules, but for the casual drinker, lightly filtered water (from a water filter pitcher or filtered water from a refrigerator) will suffice. If you use a machine, change the water with fresh water every morning.